Older literature contains no definite information pertaining to knowledge of or use made of nutmegs during antiquity. Statements, such as occur in the writings of Plautus, Scribonius Largus, Dioscorides, Pliny, Galen etc. that seem referrable to mace, may as well be referred to the bark of Ailanthus mala-barica, D. C, an East Indian tree.5) Into western Europe the fruits were probably introduced by Arabian physicians.
About the year 1180 nutmegs are enumerated among the spices imported into Accon, the port of southern Syria.6) In
1) F. A. Cartheuser, Elementa chymiae-medicae dogmatico-experimentalis; una cum synopsi mater/as medic-ae selections. Halae 1736. Vol. 2, p. 327.
2) Chemische Untersuchung des Sternanis. Buchholz, Taschenbuch fur Scheidekunstler und Apotheker auf das Jahr 1818 und 1819, 1.
3) Pharm. Zentralh. 9 (1868), 46. 4) Ibidem 7 (1866), 478.
5) Acosta, Tractato de las drogas y medicinas de las India orientales. Burgos 1578. p. 40. - Merat et De Leus, Dict de Materia medica. 1832. Vol.4, p. 173.
6) Recueil des Historiens des Croisades. Lois. 1843. p. 173. - W. Heyd, Geschichte des Levantehandels im Mittelalter. 1879. Vol.2, p. 624.
1158 nuces muscatarum from Alexandria were articles of commerce in Genoa.1) At that time they were evidently prized for fumigating purposes.-) From that time on, nutmegs were found in all of the larger marts and soon became one of the most precious spices. Their geographic source, however, apparently first became known through the travelers Lodovico Barthema and Pigafetta3) in the beginning of the 16. century.
It was about this time that the Portuguese, having taken possession of the Spice Islands, made a monopoly of nutmegs and other indigenous spices. A century later, when in 1605 the Portuguese were driven out by the Dutch, the latter attempted to concentrate the production and commerce of nutmeg to a few islands, notably on Banda and Amboina. With this in view they destroyed the spice-producing trees and shrubs on the most productive islands and forbade their cultivation.4) This interdiction was not removed until 1863. In 1769 the French succeeded in transplanting the nutmeg tree to Mauritius and at the beginning of the 19. century the English began its cultivation in Benkulen (Sumatra) and Penanz.
Until recently nutmeg and mace belonged to the most expensive spices. With the cultivation of the nutmeg tree in Dutch, English and French colonies, nutmegs became more plentiful and hence cheaper.
The distilled oils of nutmeg and mace were well known to the authors of the treatises on distillation that appeared during the middle of the 16. century and later. Valer. Cordus,5) Walter Ryff,6) Conrad Gesner,7) Porta,8) Winther9) and others make repeated mention of both oils.
1) Historia Patriae monument. Chartae II. Torino 1853. fol. 514.
2) Petrus de Ebulo, Carmen da mot/bus siculis, Basiliae 1746. p. 23. 3) Ramusio, Delle navigationi et viaggi. Venetia 1554. fol. 183 and fol. 389b.
4) Hasskarl, Neuer Sch/ussel zu Rumpfs Herbarium amboinense. Halle 1866. Vol. 2, p. 17.
5) Valer. Cordi Annotationes in Pedanii Dioscoridis de Materia medica libri V. De artificiosis extraction/bus fiber. 1540. fol. 226.
6) Gualtherius Ryff. New gross Destillirbuch. Editio Frankfurt a. Main 1556. fol. 181. 1888.
7) Euonymi Philiatri Ein kostlicher Schatz etc. 1555. p. 215.
8) Portae Magiae naturalis libri 20. Libri de destillatione. Pars 1, p. 378.
9) Guintheri Andernacei de medicina veteri et nova. Basiliae 1571. p. 630-635.
Both oils are first mentioned in pharmaceutical price ordinances of Berlin of 1574, of Frankfurt and of Worms of 1582, and in the 1589 editions of the Dispensatorium Nor/cum.
These oils were first examined by Caspar Neumann,1) Conrad Mich. Valentine-) and Bonastre.8)